“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.’”(Acts 17:16-20 ESV)
I find this story fascinating. Here is Paul, a Jew of Jews—a Pharisee, even, if you consider his training. And he’s stuck waiting for his colleagues to show up, in a city that is pretty much the complete opposite to everything he’s used to. In particular, the city is filled with idols. It’s driving him crazy! So what does he do about it?
Most people would withdraw. They’d find a hotel room (or the first-century equivalent), take out a good book (or scroll, I suppose), and hole up. Why stay in a place that offends you?
But not Paul. The first thing Paul does is go find somebody to tell about Jesus! He’s not thinking about his own comfort. He’s concerned about these people, and he’s going to make a start on bringing them the Good News—even though evangelizing Athens was never on his schedule.
Paul starts where he is, not where he wants to be. Paul cares about these people, because he knows exactly how much God cares about these people—enough to become a human being, suffer and die for them. Jesus died and rose for them! That’s reason enough for Paul to care about them, too. And so he does what he can to tell them about Jesus in a language they understand. He quotes the poets and philosophers they recognize, and lets those ideas lead into talking about Jesus.
Chances are good there’s an area in your life where you don’t feel comfortable—whether that’s at work or in your neighborhood, or maybe with part of your family who hold very different views than you do. What should you do? Run away and hole up somewhere? You could. Or, with God’s help, you could take the time to show them Jesus’ love through your words and actions—no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Let Jesus’ kindness and mercy shine through you. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. And see what God does.
We Pray: Dear Lord, when I’m uncomfortable, work through me to show Your love anyway. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on May 9, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. Name one area or situation in your life where you feel uncomfortable.
2. How could you show kindness and mercy to the people in that situation?
3. Do you think Jesus was uncomfortable leaving heaven for earth and living among us? Why or why not?